The weather im­proves for Snow Pa­trol’s come­back

Gary Light­body has largely de­feated his demons for the band’s first al­bum since 2011 – even if he is still fig­ur­ing things out

The Irish Times - - Friday Life Film & Music - Tony Clay­ton-Lea

Go away for a year and peo­ple just might re­mem­ber your name when you come back. Go away for seven years and they’ll rea­son­ably pre­sume you have taken early re­tire­ment. Ei­ther way, you’re not nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to be wel­comed back with open arms, a bunch of flow­ers, and a sherry – peo­ple want to know where you were, why you took so long to re­turn and what you have brought back with you. There is also no guar­an­tee they’re go­ing to pay any at­ten­tion to what you have to of­fer. Snow what? Gary who?

Snow Pa­trol’s pre­vi­ous stu­dio al­bum, Fallen Em­pires, was re­leased at the tail end of 2011, and while the band as a unit sub­se­quently slipped from view, Gary Light­body and Johnny McDaid kept their hand in. McDaid has be­come a go-to co-song­writer for acts such as Ed Sheeran, Pink, Birdy and Rob­bie Wil­liams, while Light­body has writ­ten with Sheeran, Tay­lor Swift and One Direc­tion as well as be­ing an in­te­gral part of the splen­did (if mourn­ful) Tired Pony, which in­cludes for­mer REM gui­tarist Peter Buck, and Ir­ish song­writ­ers and pro­duc­ers Iain Archer and Jack­nife Lee.

The strain of me­lan­cho­lia, how­ever, that oozes from Light­body (iron­i­cally named, for some­one whose bur­dens have of­ten an­chored him to the spot) is such that his co-writ­ing touches are nowhere near as sprightly as McDaid’s. The songs on Snow Pa­trol’s first al­bum in seven years, then, are weighted with Light­body’s re­cent self-con­fessed pur­suit of “clar­ity and con­nec­tion”, while the over­all theme fo­cuses on the con­flict of be­ing trapped by tech­nol­ogy and re­leased by hu­man in­ter­ac­tion.

Al­co­hol, drugs, de­pres­sion, thoughts of sui­cide, and self-ha­tred played a part in Light­body’s dis­con­nect, he has ad­mit­ted, as did his fa­ther’s strug­gle with de­men­tia. It’s all good now, thank­fully, fol­low­ing full en­gage­ment with his prob­lems via a

psy­chother­a­pist, acupunc­ture treat­ment, and tak­ing up the med­i­ta­tive mar­tial art of qigong. The dis­clo­sure of hith­erto re­pressed emotions has in­vested songs such as Don’t Give In, Heal Me, What If This Is

all the Love You Ever Get? and Soon with real sub­stance. Sev­eral are in the es­tab­lished tra­di­tion of Snow Pa­trol songs: ear­worm-friendly tunes un­der­pinned by Light­body’s smooth vo­cals and ag­i­tated lyrics. Var­i­ous ad­dic­tions are broached in one of the al­bum’s lesser songs, A Youth

Writ­ten in Fire (“Re­mem­ber the first time we got high … Those days are some­one else’s life…”), while lone­li­ness and de­men­tia are touched upon, re­spec­tively, in two of the al­bum’s best tracks.

The pi­ano bal­lad What If This is all the

Love you Ever Get? (“What if it hurts like hell … I know the wreck­age so well”) and the slow-build Soon (“To­mor­row is noth­ing to fear be­cause, fa­ther, it’s al­ways to­day … the se­cret storms of your wild youth now just gen­tle breezes”) form a crux of sorts for Wild­ness – they get to the heart of things in a surer way than many songs on pre­vi­ous Snow Pa­trol records, and am­plify Light­body’s con­cerns loudly enough for those in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion to hear.

That Wild­ness isn’t, per­haps, the strik­ing re­turn of the band of 10 years ago shouldn’t be sur­pris­ing. The weaker tracks (in­clud­ing Dark Switch, Wild Horses, Life and Death) clearly high­light a band with con­trast­ing in­ter­ests, while the best songs (which also in­clude Life on Earth, Empress, Don’t Give In) dis­play the mark of a 41-year-old song­writer, a very good song­writer, still in the mid­dle of fig­ur­ing things out. The best, one sus­pects, is still to come.

‘‘ Al­co­hol, drugs, de­pres­sion, thoughts of sui­cide, and self-ha­tred played a part in Light­body’s dis­con­nect, he has ad­mit­ted

Snow Pa­trol: the best, one sus­pects, is still to come

SNOW PA­TROL ★★★ Wild­ness Poly­dor

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